Technological advances have revolutionized the healthcare industry. From the stethoscope early on to pacemakers, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), laparoscopic surgery that’s less invasive and, well, the list goes on and on.
Some experts even suggest that 3D printers will be able to replicate human organs for transplant patients, in the not so distant future.
So, it’s not a big surprise that some industrious recreational drug consumers are using technology, like Fitbits and Apple Watches, to monitor their heart rates while taking illicit substances.
“If someone says, ‘Let’s do a line [of cocaine],'” a 20-something San Francisco based techie and occasional cocaine user named Owen told CNBC, “I’ll look at my watch. If I see [my heart rate] at 150 or 160, I’ll say, ‘I’m good.’ That’s totally fine. No one gives you a hard time.”
Most of the social media forums focused on using these smart-devices to measure drug-induced vitals are centered around cocaine, MDMA or other stimulants, like ketamine, that cause a spike in heart rate.
Why Fitness Trackers Should Not Be Used to Track Drug Use Heart Rates
1. While applying wearable technology to recreational drug use is certainly clever, the problem is it might not be accurate.
A 2017 study by the American College of Cardiology found that out of the five most popular “wrist-worn fitness trackers,” the most reliable under all levels of intensity weren’t “wrist-worn” devices at all.
Rather, the “old fashion” heart rate monitors that strap across the chest offered the best readings.
2. Another less obvious issue that fitness trackers won’t be able to detect, is whether or not an illicit substance is cut with another dangerous or even toxic chemical.
For example, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than morphine is showing up not only mixed in heroin, but is now also laced in cocaine.
Fentanyl is so toxic that even a small amount absorbed through the skin can be fatal. Needless to say, ingesting cocaine-laced fentanyl has the potential to be even more deadly.
In addition, if a person overdoses on what they thought was only cocaine, first responders will treat the person for cocaine overdose instead of fentanyl overdose, which can make matters more problematic.
Cocaine Use and Side Effects
Cocaine use in the United States decreased from 2006 to 2010, but in recent years it has been steadily increasing, along with production in Columbia.
Either way, its prevalence in the white-collar workplace of fast paced, high-pressure work environments, such as computer programming and tech, is sometimes an accepted part of the office “work hard, play hard” culture.
At issue, though, is how addictive stimulants like cocaine can be.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 5,000 overdose deaths a year are caused by cocaine use and that number is, likely, underreported.
Like with other illicit drugs, the short-term “high” from cocaine can come with serious side effects, including some of the following:
- Increased heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure
- Constricted blood vessels and dilated pupils
- Restlessness and irritability
- Panic, depression and insomnia
- Withdrawal can also cause vertigo, tremors and muscle twitches
Wearable Devices Provide False Sense of Safety
Other useful tech devices and smartphone apps can be helpful in preventing reckless behavior.
Several companies offer Bluetooth enabled breathalyzers that send a person’s estimated blood alcohol content to their smartphone.
That said, they should only be used for fun and not as a gauge of whether or not a person should get behind the wheel. It’s never a good idea to drink and drive. Similarly, it’s never safe or recommended to use drugs like cocaine, MDMA or ketamine, especially with today’s street drugs being cut with other dangerous drugs.
“Taking drugs is always a risk whether you’re monitoring with a tracker or not,” cardiologist and associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, Ethan Weiss, told CNBC.
While it might be novel and fun to track blood alcohol content while drinking with friends, the stakes are higher when doing the same with drugs like cocaine and powerful stimulants.
The readings from wearable devices should only be used as a rough guideline for tracking a person’s vital statistics while using them for their intended use…or anything else.